2008 -Philosophy and Liturgy:
Plenary Speaker Abstracts
Much analytic philosophy of religion focuses on religious beliefs and how they can be cognized and rationally defended. This paper attends to how liturgy can claim to disclose knowledge of God in ways associated with beliefs but not reducible to them. Drawing on some moves made in recent secular feminist epistemology, a case is mounted that liturgy can provide embodied knowledge of God by direct acquaintance and relationship. Strands from the neglected Christian tradition of 'spiritual senses' are brought in to strengthen this case.
Two models inform Christian reflection on the sacraments. According to one model, the sacraments are best thought of as vehicles of divine presence. According to the other, they are best thought of not as vehicles of presence, but as vehicles of divine action. While it would be nice to not have to choose between these two models, theological reflection on the character of icons has tended to employ the first model, holding that icons are primarily a vehicle of divine presence. In this paper, I explore a way of thinking about icons according to which they are primarily a means of divine action. My argument is predicated on the claim that the faith that animates the Church is not primarily an assent to doctrine, but a living relation to certain events such as the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. I defend the claim that icons are the vehicles by which God speaks to us, impressing upon us the significance of these events and, more generally, God's action in history.
The Roman Catholic Church in recent years has experienced a phenomenal growth of devotion to the Real Presence of Christ in the Holy Eucharist. In my lecture I will (1) attend to the rite of the Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament as a long-standing and profoundly meaningful liturgical practice, (2) analyze the intentionality inscribed in the rite itself, and (3) in light of recent attempts at offering new interpretations of Christ’s sacramental presence, argue that only the doctrine of Eucharistic transubstantiation offers a fully satisfying account for the intentionality inscribed in the liturgical rite of the Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.
A study of liturgical practice as a transformational exercise for the modern philosopher, integrating the philosopher’s I-think into membership in the We-think of a liturgical community and thence into the I-will-be of the Revealer-Redeemer. When Jewish Morning Prayer is examined as a context for such an exercise, something surprising emerges. This ancient rabbinic practice begins to look like daily training in pragmatic reasoning: transforming the I-think into an agent of shared reparative work.
Contemporary philosophy of religion has been attentive to beliefs but not believers. It has been characterized by a kind of epistemological fixation that myopically focuses on either the epistemic status of religious belief, or an explication of the propositional content of specific beliefs (e.g., the goodness of God, God’s eternity, or resurrection). But philosophy of religion has spent very little time being attentive to how embodied, flesh-and-blood believers experience religion primarily as a form of life. A formative and usually central aspect of that form of life—across religious traditions—is participation in corporate worship, liturgical practices, and other forms of shared spiritual disciplines. In other words, believers tend to focus on faith as a way of life (“what we do”) whereas contemporary philosophy of religion tends to treat faith as a way of thinking (“what we believe”).
The recent flourishing of philosophy of religion within the analytic tradition of philosophy has included a quite extraordinary flourishing of philosophical theology. As to religion itself, analytic philosophers have focused almost entirely on religious belief, and have concentrated their attention on the epistemology of religious belief.
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